Buildings, like people, have stories to tell about their community and the nation’s past. Embedded in historic structures and landscapes are traces of past lives that are clues to how people in those time lived.
Rawalpindi is full of historical places, most of them were left by the Hindu and Sikh Community after the Partition. The city is sandwiched in between Ghandara and Sawan civilization.
Sawan civilization has been traced back to 18 million years, this was reported by Professor Dr. Ahmed Hassan Dani, the famous archeologist and celebrated scholar of Pakistan.
The historical background of Rawalpindi is traced back to the Paleolithic period from the sites of Rawat, morgah, and on the bank of river sohwan .
Rawalpindi is full of historic buildings like Sujhan Singh Haveli, Bachan Nawaz haveli , Kakoo shah tower, Pardit Singh Haveli and many other Havelis in the cantonment like Bachan Nawaz Haveli accommodated Fatima Jinnah women university.
It is very important that the crumbling heritage of Rawalpindi should be conserved, rehabilitated and ensured its adaptive reuse.
Beautification of Rawalpindi with the promotion and development of tourism industry in the city can play an important role to ensure the tourist promotion and development.
One of the oldest, well-structured buildings in the congested market of Bhabra Bazaar Rawalpindi is Haveli Sujhan Singh. Its construction started in 1890 and was completed in 1893.
Rai Bahadur Sujhan Singh was a famous, wealthy merchant of Rawalpindi. He had a flourishing timber business. He was known as an eminent personality of his day. The Haveli with a majestic throne made of gold and bedrooms furnished with ivory furniture shows his royal taste and temperament. The peacocks danced in the courtyard while a pet tiger strolled through corridors. The water supply was maintained by a well connected to 30 lines.
The Haveli has an enclosed area of 24000 sq.ft (2,230 sq. meters), consisted of four stories and 45 rooms. The windows of the rooms were large and chandeliers and lamps were used to lit on.
The wooden decoration and ornamentation of the Haveli borrowed a lot from Europe and central Asian architecture.
Brick and timber are used as main material in the building, and the Haveli depicts the traditional architecture style and designs used by the prominent families of Sikh community at that era.
After the partition of subcontinent the Haveli gradually fell into ruin and one part of the Haveli is completely ruined with cave ins and cracked walls while the second part faced the destruction of wooden work and damaged foundation.
The Government of Pakistan settled the refugees from Kashmir in the Haveli who almost destroyed the creative woodwork before being vacated by General Zia ul Haque who handed it over to nuclear scientist A.Q.
Khan who wanted to turn the Haveli into a science college for girls but that project for some reasons did not see the light of the day.
On 19 October 2006 PoliticianSheikh Rasheed then federal minister of Rawalpindi, announced that the building would be converted into a campus for TheFatima Jinnah Women University, and it was handed over to Fatima Jinnah Women University.
National College of arts took over in the year 2014 and the idea was to create the Haveli a field college for the architecture students of Boston architectural college and NCA.
Meanwhile donors including UNESCO, Netherlands funds, World Heritage China, IUCN and NCA together developed a project titled "Preparation of the guidelines for repair, renewal and adoptive reuse of historic buildings in Rawalpindi" so the historical buildings can be preserved for cultural heritage.
About Sujhan Singh Haveli
Dr. Shahid Mehmood team leader of the project met with authorities in PHA about the condition of the Haveli. PHA is a department of the provincial Government Punjab which consists of an Engineering department plus they have funds but it is important for a building to be declared as Heritage through a process, D.G Abid Malik of PHA and VC of FJWU Dr. Sameena Amin Qadir were corporative through the process.
The project that is initiated by the UNESCO among other groups has three main activities
Advisory report on heritage legislation and planning
Practical guide on conservation of state owned building
Private heritage home owners
Technology being used
Laser scanning is a new technology in Pakistan but it is being used as a precise survey instrument since 1998 in other parts of world. It is becoming a new industry standard as to make very accurate measurement in complicated areas.
Lt Col (R) Waseem Ahsen GM Product Development System (PDS) at TROJANS is using the current technology to survey the old buildings among Sujhan Singh Haveli his recent project was Chauburji in Lahore, the project was assigned by Punjab Government and they have 9 more projects lined up, 3D models and 2D architectural designs have been handed over to the Punjab Government of Chauburji, same is being done with Haveli Sujhan Singh.
Rawalpindi is one of the oldest city of Pakistan with rich history and cultural heritage but sadly the heritage is in the state of complete ruin and neglect. Government should pay attention and initiate projects to preserve the heritage and should adopt this modern technology that is being used around the globe for 3D surveying, social societies and students should promote its importance and awareness throughout the country as well as on social media, which will attract tourists and historian across the world towards Pakistan.
There is a dire need to develop a public private partnership for repair, renewal and adoptive reuse of historic buildings in Rawalpindi city. All the government departments in collaboration with one another, under the leadership of Commissioner Rawalpindi should make synergies for conservation and rehabilitation of the crumbling heritage. State owned historic buildings must take lead in their maintenance and development. The private home owners of the historic buildings must get financial aid from the government through Banks for their return in easy installments.
It is proposed that the planning should be initiated for conservation of heritage and that is the only way for socio economic development and image building of Pakistan.
We may make metro the focal point for promotion and development of tourist points on each station. We may make tourist information center covering cultural and historical sites on both sites of the station, for example on Liaquat Bagh station we may make tourist information centre regarding Islamia school, where Quaid-e-azam visited twice. We may highlight Company Bagh now formed Liaquat Bagh.
There must be lessons included in textbooks in school and college level of the places included in cultural heritage, which will bring love, care and respect for the crumbling heritage of Rawalpindi.
As there are left behind buildings from Hindu and Sikh community, these places can attract them, can bring economical uplift in our country, if maintained properly and provided facilities and safe passage.
The report was prepared by Ahtisham Mir, Fahad Abbasi and Umair Murtaza as part of their thesis.